The Northeastern region has suffered from developmental deficit due to prolonged insurgencies, and security and development along the international borders would have to be strengthened in order do away with this deficit, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in Aizawl on Monday.
The home minister also expressed concern over militant groups exploiting the border population, and said that taking advantage of the free-movement regime between India and Myanmar, the militants and other criminals also smuggle weapons and commit crimes inside India.
“The Northeastern region has suffered from developmental deficit due to prolonged insurgencies. Our government is committed to fast-tracking of development in the North-eastern region. Work on road and rail network extension is going on. We want to extend these networks to border areas,” Singh said. He was addressing a crucial one-day meeting in Aizawl with the chief ministers of four Northeastern states that share international boundary with Myanmar.
Responding to various problems pointed out by the four chief ministers – of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram – Singh said the Indo-Myanmar border region would be playing a much greater role in the near future. “We must be actively prepared for it,” he said.
Pointing out that the BJP government at the Centre wanted to take the extension of road and railway network to the international borders in the Northeast, Singh said the Centre had already released Rs 567.39 crore under the Border Area Development programme in the past three years in addition to the various infrastructure projects under way there.
Underlining the need to strengthen and upgrade the police infrastructure in all states bordering Myanmar, Singh said a committee was being constituted in the home ministry to identify the gaps in basic infrastructure in these border areas.
“I have ordered the constitution of a committee under the Secretary Border Management to identify these gaps. I also urge the state governments to bring the remote border areas under active policing by opening more police stations and police outposts,” he said. These police stations, he said, should be equipped with “good” infrastructure and qualified manpower.
Expressing concern over the sufferings of the backwards border areas, the minister said, “Our people living in the far-flung border areas are vulnerable to the threats and exploitation of anti-social elements and militants. (But), the people living in the border areas are very important to us in our border management scheme. They are our strategic assets.”
“The security and well-being of people living in the border areas is crucial to our national security and it is our duty to provide them the basic needs of life,” he said.
Describing the Indo-Myanmar border as unique in several aspects, Singh said that the Centre has been releasing funds for this border area without any hindrance. “The India-Myanmar border is unique in many ways. It has a visa-free movement regime for the people living within 16 km on either side.
The home minister however said the free-movement regime was being misused by militants and criminals. “The free-movement regime is being misused by militants and trans-border criminals who smuggle weapons, contraband goods and fake Indian currency notes. Taking advantage of the free-movement regime, occasionally they enter India, commit crimes and escape to their relatively safe hide-outs,” he said.
Announcing setting up of another committee headed by the Special Secretary Internal Security, Singh said this committee would examine the present rules and regulations adopted by the border states for implementation of the free movement regime and come up with some recommendations within three months.
Singh also praised the Assam Rifles – India’s oldest para-military force – for its role in guarding the 1,643-km Indo-Myanmar border, and said the force has been performing its duty with courage and determination.
While three chief ministers – Pema Khandu of Arunachal Pradesh, N Biren Singh of Manipur and Lal Thanhawla of Mizoram – attended the meeting, Nagaland chief minister Shurhozelie was represented by Home and Border Affairs Minister Y Patton. Chief secretaries and DGPs of the four states, the Assam Rifles Director-General and senior officials from the central ministries concerned were also present at the meeting.
Of the 1643 km of international border that India shares with Myanmar, the state-wise break-up is Arunachal Pradesh (440 km), Nagaland (215 km), Manipur (398 km) and Mizoram (510 km).